Everywhere he goes, Greenwave sports fans ask Kevin Wickware if this is a rebuilding year.
The first-year coach of the Lady Wave basketball team, who took over after Anne Smith stepped down in May, doesn’t view it as such.
“I don’t know if I would coin it as a rebuilding year,” said Wickware, in assessing this year’s squad.
Fallon, which won three consecutive state 3A championships from 2017-2019, graduated the nucleus from last year’s team that went 26-2 overall and 17-0 in league and was ranked the fifth best girls’ basketball team in Nevada.
Gone are last year’s leading scorers, cousins Leilani Otuafi and Leta Otuafi, defensive specialists Kenna Hamlin and Alexis Jarrett, and forwards Emily Wright and Chandler McAlexander. Returning to the green and white are junior Madison Whitaker and seniors Karlee Hitchcock, Kinsli Rogne and Makenzee Moretto.
“It will be a different year,” Wickware said, adding that he strongly feels the Lady Wave will be a top three team in the Northern 3A. “State is the goal, but we should have a very competitive season.”
Wickware, who coached the freshman boys for three years and the girls junior varsity for the past three seasons, is familiar with the players and their capabilities.
“We have a good, strong work ethic, and team speed is definitely one thing we have,” Wickware pointed out. “Our girls like to run. We have some very athletic girls.”
Of the returning players, Wickware said Whitaker demonstrates that team speed and quickness. Coming off the bench for most of last season, she average under seven points a game, and had 91 rebounds, 33 steals, 33 assists and six blocks.
“As Maddie gets more comfortable with her skill set, the scarier she becomes on the basketball court,” Wickware said.
The lack of overall height on the Lady Wave should be compensated by the team conditioning and speed.
“We are a well-conditioned team,” Wickware. “We’re also a small team and need to use it (speed) to our advantage. We have offensive and defensive schemes to meet their needs.”
With Whitaker one of the tallest players at 5-foot, 10-inches, Wickware said rebounding is an unknown. He pointed out Aisha Sharron, who rotated between junior varsity and varsity last year, and Hitchcock will be aggressive underneath the basket, and added Addison Sandberg likes to rebound. The shooting game will be one that develops over the season. Leilani and Leta led last year’s team in scoring with 13.9 and 16.1 points per game, respectively. Leilani led the team with 21 3-pointers, and Hamlin added 16.
“We’re learning to score without a dominant scorers,” Wickware said.
So far this early season, Wickware said Shaylee Fagg, who played in two games last year after being called up, has shown an aptitude to fire shots from the outside as has Rogne and Sandberg. Hitchcock and Sharron, whom he calls one of the fastest girls who doesn’t stop moving, could be the threats in the paint.
Newcomers Hailey Guerrero, Samantha Frost and Sydney Jarrett also show potential as first-year varsity players, Wickware added. He said Frost is a “blue-collar athlete” who dives on the floor for loose balls and has no problems taking a charge on defense. Jarrett, he said, is coming into her own and has quickness from left to right and has intensity in her approach.
All players, whether first-year or veterans, realize the legacy left by Smith and her departed players. Wickware said the girls know how the program developed over the past decade. Smith left with a 101-14 conference record, 164-52 overall with four state and eight regional appearances.
“They know what’s at stake with this basketball program,” Wickware said. “They know what it takes.”
Wickware, though, is familiar with all the players. Most of them played for the Fallon native on junior varsity and were also involved when he assisted with both the spring and summer programs. He is aware of their desire and what he expects. As a JV coach, Wickware’s teams consistently finished the season well above .500. At the end of his season, Wickware assisted Smith throughout the playoffs and state 3A championship games.
“It was always good experience,” Wickware said.
It’s because of those years as a coach for the freshman and JV teams that Wickware wanted to succeed Smith. So far, he said the transition to varsity hasn’t been difficult.
Wickware graduated from CCHS in 1997 and attended the College of the Sequoias in Visalia, Calif., where he played baseball for two years. He finished his degree from Nevada State College and did his student teaching at Numa Elementary School, where he’s taught for the past 10 years. Wickware also played basketball and baseball for the Wave.
Assisting him are Mike Berney, whose been Wickware for three years; Celeste Blakely and Kristin Dearth, who was a senior on last year’s Nevada women’s basketball team.
This year’s schedule may be found at https://maxpreps.com or https://www.nnvd1a.org.